Hey, Blue Team!
As you all know, this weekend is one of the most important of the year for professional wrestling. I’ll be attempting to score front row tickets for both nights of New Japan’s G1 Special when they go on sale Saturday morning.
Also, Sunday is WrestleMania.
That’s right. It’s that time of year again. When non-wrestling fans who know you watch wrestling ask you questions like, “who’s gonna win the WrestleMania?” “are you excited Goldberg’s back?” and “will Hulk Hogan be there?” while you do your best to change the subject because of the shame. Oh god, the shame.
Good Smackdown Live this week. One of the better WrestleMania Go Home Smackdowns in recent memory. In the years between brand splits, the pre-Mania Smackdown was typically taped after Raw and served as basically just another WrestleMania pre-show. This year, we get an actual Smackdown episode.
The Road to WrestleMania is coming to an end, so why not take a moment to give The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live a share on your favorite social media platform. While you’re at it, follow With Spandex on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
And now without further ado, here is The Best and Worst of Smackdown Live for March 28th, 2017.
Best: Shane McMahon Is Not Going To Do Something Stupid At WrestleMania
No time for video packages and backstage skits this week. It’s WrestleMania Week and there’s no time to kill. Smackdown Live starts right out in the arena with Daniel Bryan yessing his way down the ramp. He’s here to oversee the contract signing between Shane McMahon and AJ Styles for their match at WrestleMania.
It’s a pretty standard WWE contract signing segment. Shane and AJ both cut promos on each other, the table is pushed to the side and there’s a stare down. But it’s all very well done, and surprisingly no one ends up going through the table. Both promos were well-written and the performances were solid. No surprise from these two guys … but there was one fairly big surprise in the middle of AJ’s promo.
Apparently we won’t be seeing a big stunt from Shane this Sunday, as Styles drops the bombshell that their WrestleMania match is just going to be a normal match. And honestly, that now makes me even more intrigued to see their match on Sunday. Could that possibly be true? Are they really just going to have a standard match? I just can’t imagine a Styles/McMahon WrestleMania match in 2017 that’s not littered with crash pad spots all over the stadium. Though frankly, at Shane’s age it’s probably safer for him to fall twenty feet into a giant pillow than trying to go Coast to Coast in the ring again.
I have my doubts that they’ll actually stick to this, but how much fun would it be if they did? How great would Styles look coming out of carrying Shane through a 20-minute mat classic? Anybody can lay there and let Shane fall on them, but AJ Styles is one of the few who could actually have a great match with him. My money’s still on Shane trying something he shouldn’t. It’s just going to happen inside the ring instead of outside it.
Worst: This Is Every Available Woman On The Smackdown Roster
They try to cram everything possible into this week’s women’s segment and it’s an absolute mess until we get to the end. It starts as a one-on-one match pitting Becky Lynch against Carmella with Alexa Bliss and Mickie James sitting in on commentary. Their commentary outshines the match so much that the cameras spend more time showing the announce table instead of the ring.
The couple of minutes of Carmella/Lynch that we did see was not looking great. It doesn’t take long for Bliss and James to get physical on the outside, finding their way into the ring to mercifully put an end to the one-on-one match. They cut to commercial break and when we come back this is now a tag match pitting Lynch and James vs. Bliss and Carmella. Not a perfect match by a long shot, but compared to the one-on-one match this started out as, it’s Savage/Steamboat.
Eventually Natalya’s music hits, which causes Tom Phillips to act so shocked, you would think this didn’t happen literally every week. They go to yet another commercial break and this time when we return, Natalya is on commentary (presumably because Vince saw there were only three people behind Smackdown’s announce table and demanded that someone get out there immediately). Nattie’s not behind the table for long. She interjects herself in the match, distracting the referee so Ellsworth can interfere, leading to Carmella pinning Becky Lynch.
After the match, all five women are in the ring, with the heels beating down the faces (I guess Mickie James is a face?), until surprise! Naomi’s music hits and out she comes on fire, making this whole mess worth it. She takes out all the heels before jumping on the mic and announcing that she is now available for WrestleMania.
Naomi’s return instantly gives the Smackdown Women’s match at WrestleMania a little purpose. It was starting to feel like a directionless mess. It turns out that “all available women on the Smackdown Live roster” was code for “TBA/Once We Find Out If Naomi Is Back In Time.”
Prior to Naomi’s return, I was starting to feel like a one-one-one match between Mickie James and Alexa Bliss was the way to go. Especially since it looks like they aren’t going to add anyone fun to the match, like Asuka. But with Naomi’s return, there’s now an actual story to tell in Sunday’s match. Naomi regaining the belt she never lost in her hometown is a pretty great feel-good WrestleMania moment. Well, at least WrestleMania Pre-Show moment.
Best: My Favorite Bella
That’s not true, my favorite Bella is Maryse Bella. But Breezey Bella is a close second in what was sadly my favorite part of the show. Tyler Breeze once again dresses up as Breezey Bella and tries to trick Daniel Bryan into booking him in the women’s match at WrestleMania. That’s not happening, but as a consolation prize, Breeze and his partner Fandango end up in the ultimate WrestleMania consolation prize, the Andre the Giant Battle Royale.
I’m so happy that these guys get to be in the ring in the stadium on Sunday, and not signing autographs at the 8pm Sunday night Fan Axxess event, alongside Brian Kendrick and Pete Dunne.
Extra points for Smackdown Live putting an actual funny segment on the air this week instead of Dean Ambrose, whose forklift chase with Baron Corbin through downtown Richmond was presumably cut for time.
The Best: The Miz
I would totally watch a full half hour show every week on the network where The Miz and Maryse play every WWE Superstar. The Total Bellas parodies are back this week and even better than last week. There’s nothing anyone can possibly do to convince me that this isn’t exactly what John Cena sounds like in real life. Like, The Miz is just secretly recording him and then just saying stuff in these videos that he’s heard Cena say.
These are once again legitimately funny, but also cut to the bone in their ruthlessness.
The final installment features Maryse and The Miz breaking character (the John Cena/Nikki Bella characters) and delivering a fantastic promo. No matter how Sunday turns out for The Miz, this could end up actually being his WrestleMania week moment.
I really hope there are big plans for The Miz after Mania. I’d love to see him end up with the WWE Championship before the year is over. He deserves it. From last year’s Mania to this week, he has had a banner year and somehow just keeps getting better. No matter what you think of this mixed tag match, going against John Cena at WrestleMania in any capacity is a great spot on the card. And so far The Miz has taken advantage of it. It’s a shame the company doesn’t have stronger faces for Miz to do his amazing heel work with.
After the Bella parody finale, (the real) John Cena and Nikki Bella show up to have a word with Miz and Maryse, and somehow Cena manages to become more of a parody of himself than The Miz and Maryse’s parody. Since John Cena is secretly a thirteen-year-old boy who switched bodies with his dad when lightning struck their house at the same time they simultaneously wished to understand each other, he takes a jab at The Miz’s dick not working. Then he mansplains the women’s revolution while Nikki Bella stands there and doesn’t say a word for literally ten minutes. He accuses Maryse of doing nothing in WWE even though she’s entertained me more in the last two weeks than every Bella combined has, ever.
Cena takes off his shirt, hat, and wristbands in order to get serious. By the way, serious to Cena is calling The Miz a puss. Then calling Miz and Maryse the Sh-It Couple. Did I say thirteen-year-old? I meant ten-year-old. It just goes on like that. It just keeps going and going and going. It’s all very much John Cena, and just serves to make The Miz and Maryse look even stronger.
Worst: Every Available Man On The Smackdown Roster
The ten-man tag team match pitting American Alpha, Mojo Rawley, Heath Slater, and Rhyno against The Usos, Breezango, and Dolph Ziggler was not a bad match. In fact, the beats leading up to the finish were a lot of fun. But I personally had a hard time getting into it, because I just couldn’t stop thinking about how wrong it is that the Smackdown Tag Team Championship won’t be defended at WrestleMania.
What a slap in the face to a division that is filled with more talent than WWE knows what to do with. It’s the only WWE Title not being defended during WrestleMania weekend. Even the UK Championship is being defended at Axxess. There’s a better chance of the PROGRESS World Championship changing hands in a WWE ring this weekend than the Smackdown Tag Team Championship.
Like I said earlier, I’m happy Breezango got on the card. I’m happy for all these guys. Ok, maybe not Mojo Rawley, but I’m happy for most of these guys. I know WrestleMania is no longer for us. It’s for the casual fan who I guess would rather see Pitbull perform than see the tag belts defended. But it really bothers me.
Best: Family Reunion
The main event for this week’s Smackdown Live is Bray Wyatt vs. Luke Harper in a little preview of what a full Bray Wyatt/Luke Harper match would look like. It’s a good match, but they’re not given enough time to make it a great one. They do their best with the time they are given, jumping right into the match and not wasting a moment. It kind of plays out as if it were the last five minutes of an epic twenty five minute match. It basically revolves around each man trying to hit Sister Abigail and the other escaping until Bray finally succeeds, pinning Harper.
It’s great to see Bray Wyatt back in the ring again. We haven’t seen him wrestle much on Smackdown since he won the WWE Championship. He looked great here; it’s a shame we haven’t seen more of him as a dominant champion. The Road to WrestleMania ends on a high note with Bray Wyatt in the middle of the ring victorious. So I turned off my television and went to bed, satisfied with the end of the show.
Have a happy WrestleMania everybody!
Ok. I’ll talk about it. That’s not exactly how the show ended. There was one more little thing.
It turns out that the black and red tennis racket that Bray Wyatt leaned against Randy Orton’s crotch last week is a weapon of the apocalypse. The Road to WrestleMania ends with Randy Orton plunging it into Sister Abigail’s grave, causing embers to raise from the ground beneath Orton as back in the arena Bray Wyatt has some sort of seizure. This is all intercut with footage of a viper eating a rat.
Enjoy WrestleMania everybody!
Until next time, I’m Justin Donaldson reminding you that if you run into Tom Phillips in Orlando, DON’T give him your phone number.